Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year In Review

For the 303rd and final post of 2010 let's have a look back on a few of the more memorable events of the past year.

It began with the anticipation of the Vancouver Paralympics. Could Canada repeat their gold medal success at Torino in 2006, this time on home ice? Though pre-Paralympic tournament success was spread between half a dozen countries, giving at least half the field reason to hope for a gold medal, Canada were heavy favourites led by six-time Brier competitor Jim Armstrong.

So it proved, with Canada advancing comfortably, if not invincibly to a final with Korea, where they coasted to a mid-way 8-1 lead, and then hung on for an 8-7 victory.

After the Paralympics I wrote:

I hope Jim sees his future as advancing the sport outside of the cocoon of national team player.  I'd like to see him get his coaching credentials and become a full-time wheelchair curling ambassador/national coach with a mandate to kick start provincial programs, most of which have stalled at a minimal number of participants. This win gives the CCA another window of opportunity to capitalise on a gold medal, an opening missed after Torino.

That hope may have been dashed when in April news broke that Jim had been arrested in Blaine, Washington, a case that may be concluded when a Federal Judge is asked to accept plea agreements on January 28, 2011. Bob Weeks gave the Armstrong saga his "Weirdest, Saddest Award" at the top of his yearly review.

Lost amidst the Paralympics hoopla was the Canadian National Championship, held at the same time in Kelowna BC. With four BC players competing in Vancouver and one national champion choosing to stay home and cheer her national side, British Columbia still managed to field both teams in the final; the Host team skipped by Gary Cormack, beating Gerry Austgarden's BC provincial champions 6-4.

British Columbia have been national champions since the withdrawal of Team Canada after 2006; and their national team players are eligible to return for the 2011 Championships in Edmonton, Alberta,

This year the CCA spent some of the money that previously supported national team travel, to organise a series of High Performance Player Development and Talent Identification Camps. This was an attempt to answer a long standing criticism from those outside the present National Training Program, that they were being ignored. Every Canadian curler with ambition and initiative will have had the opportunity to connect with National Program representatives this season; a big step forward.

One of the discoveries arising from the CCA's national outreach, is that the quality and even existence of dedicated coaching varies widely across Canada. Some teams, such as Team Smart, perennial Alberta champions, had a qualified coach dedicated to their team. Others may have a coach allocated by their Provincial Associations just before the Nationals. Having said that, BC's success has not been built on established club sides with season long coaching.

The year saw a long overdue lifting of the World Curling Association's ban on powered wheelchairs. There had never been any rational basis for it, and this blog is proud to have been involved in a successful campaign to overturn it.

The WCF's other significant decision this year was to drop the requirement for curlers to use wheelchairs for their daily mobility, in favour of defining eligibility as inability to curl without use of a wheelchair. The exact language is very technical, and a whole infrastructure will have to be established to define its limits, but wheelchair curling, from June of this year, is now defined as a sport played from a wheelchair, rather than one limited to full-time wheelchair users.

Team China impressed all who saw them win a Worlds berth at the 2010 World Wheelchair Curling  Qualifying Tournament. China arrived too late to the international scene to amass enough points to be eligible for Vancouver's Paralympics, and they had the misfortune to be the team displaced by hosts Czech Republic as an automatic entrant at the 2011 Worlds in Prague. But their performance in Finland suggests a serious podium challenge in our sport, just as in Women's and Men's curling.

Sweden entered the Paralympics with their skip, Jalle Jungnell, barely recovered from spine surgery, and they suffered a cruel blow when they lost their vice, and last rock thrower, Glen Ikonen to a failed drug test on the eve of a tie break for a play-off place. Sweden's coach Tomas Nordin rallied them to a bronze medal, beating Team USA who again came up one win short of a medal.

The Swedish team broke up after Vancouver. Lead  Anette Wilhelm retired as did skip Jalle Jungnell, though I understand he will be coaching a Swedish squad at a pre-Worlds tournament in Scotland mid-January.

The Americans had hoped to field an unchanged and increasingly experienced team for next year's Worlds, but have lost Patrick McDonald to shoulder surgery.

Probably the team other than Canada carrying the heaviest weight of expectation going into 2010 was Great Britain. They fielded a very experienced squad, with just one change from the multiple World Championship winning and Torino Silver medallists. As part of their preparation, their coach, Tom Pendreigh, chose to have the team throw from the near rings rather than the near hog line. In theory this would have given the players better angles on straight ice, but his plan was overtaken by a rule change that allowed stones to be placed away from the centre line. Plus, of course, the Vancouver ice was never likely to be straight.

Great Britain (in reality Scotland) failed in Vancouver as they had failed at the previous two Worlds, and Michael McCreadie, who capped a long Paralympic career by being chosen to carry the flag at the opening ceremony in Vancouver, decided to take a year away from the national team. Pendreigh was replaced this month by Tony Zummack, who coached Team Alberta at the past two Canadian Nationals.

Other teams falling on hard times: Germany, who were unable to emulate their 2009 Worlds bronze. They replaced skip Jens Jäger with 3rd Marcus Sieger, who will be the first quadriplegic to skip a national side at World Championship level. Norway lost the coach who had taken them to successive World Championships, but replacement Per Christensen was unable to recapture the magic of 2007 and 2008. Thoralf Hognestad is back as coach, and Per returned to his native Denmark and an unsuccessful campaign at the Worlds Qualifying.

The unluckiest team in 2010 had to be the French, who travelled to Finland to compete in the Worlds Qualifying only to fall victim to a national jurisdictional dispute that meant they were not allowed to play.

In Ontario there are five competitive club teams in the south of the province and this year four teams will compete to represent Northern Ontario. Bruce Cameron's Ottawa rink defeated Kenora's Wayne Ficek for 2010's John McCrae Trophy for bragging rights in Ontario.

Manitoba, underachievers at the Nationals, split up, with Chris Sobkowicz and 3rd Dennis Thiessen parting ways. If nothing else it will make for a more competitive Manitoba playdown. [UPDATE Jan 8: Sobkowicz will again skip Team Manitoba with Thiessen on his team.]

Saskatchewan did not add to their provincial team pool in 2010. Mike Fitzgerald prevailed again in Nova Scotia, and Team Smart will be reinforced by the return of Bruno Yizek at the Alberta Provincials.

Quebec's players had a contentious parting from coach Al Whittier, since repaired, but now curl out of the Magog CC, under coach Germain Tremblay. In November they won Ontario's over-subscribed Cathy Kerr Spiel, which boasted the largest ever field of wheelchair curlers. This is becoming the tournament to attend, and hopefully organisers will be able to combine the event with the US Open to make a trip east worthwhile for Western teams.

While the competition calendar is getting more crowded, 2010 did not see a significant growth of total numbers, or many new faces. Of the ten teams at the 2010 Nationals, only 8 players (excluding alternates) were rookies.

There were some interesting inaugural events. Australia opened its first dedicated curling ice to wheelchair users in Melbourne, and hopes to soon be competing at the Worlds Qualifying. Cape Cod CC held its first wheelchair curling summer spiel. Wheelchair curling in the USA has been centred in Utica with the significant support of SITRIN staff and it is good to see the sport expanding to other locations.

The year ended on a sad note with the passing of Scotland's Frank Duffy. Though the circumstances surrounding his death may be controversial, there's no denying he was a pioneer, and a very accomplished player with multiple national and international trophies to his name.

Speaking personally I take some satisfaction from the lifting of the power chair ban. Decisions like these are never the result of a single person or event, but the website and blog provided a forum for change. Despite this year's rebuff, I'll continue to campaign for a win-to-play Team Canada representation.

It was a disappointment not to have the opportunity to cover the Paralympics in at least the detail that we covered the 2009 Worlds. Curling authorities still do not, in my opinion, appreciate the value of publicity. What little live coverage Paralympic curling achieved was hobbled by commentators situated outside the arena and watching less than optimal video.

Part of the problem is that no one's career is affected by participation numbers. The WCF collects national associations, but whether a country has 16 or 1600 participants seems to matter little. Similarly, in Canada the sport is run by people who pay most attention when medals are on the line. However sympathetic and well-intentioned, they do not have a mandate to grow the sport and their funding does not rely on increasing participation.

Though it is clear that single issue organizations like Own The Podium will concentrate their funds on those already performing at a high level, it could be hoped that Sport Canada might take a wider view, and see wheelchair curling as enabling wheelchair users to participate in a winter recreation - at whatever level of skill.

I still think that there's a strong case for starting over.

Finally I would like to thank the many people who have supported the blog and website with an occasional donation, and more frequent supportive emails. Fortunately they far outnumber the tiny group who this year have devoted their energy to increasingly frantic and abusive anonymous personal attacks for what they see as under-appreciation of Jim Armstrong.

Honestly guys, that's why comments are moderated, so don't waste your time telling me to stand up and be a man. I'm the one who uses a wheelchair, after all.

A very Happy New Year to you all. You can add your own 2010 highlights in the comments.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

News from Northern Ontario

Wayne Ficek braced by Chester Draper
[photo - 2009 - Ian Readey]

Ten curlers and four coaches attended the CCA's Development Camp in Thunder Bay the week before Christmas. Fort William Coach Dave Kawahara reports that it gave "quite a boost" to everyone attending.

He was especially appreciative of the opportunity to hear the responses of people with the experience of Wendy Morgan, Daryl Neighbour and Laura Farres to the same questions that have been asked of the everyday coaches like himself.  "The in-class sessions were very interactive and excellent questions and responses flowed. It was a very successful camp," he said.

Four teams are expected to compete in the N. Ontario Provincials at the Fort William CC in Thunder Bay, February 25-27. Sudbury has formed a team of athletes with experience in other disciplines, who Wayne Ficek, reigning provincial champion, feels will be strong competitors once they gain more on-ice experience.

The title this year, though, is expected to be a contest between two-time champions Team Ficek representing Kenora (though two of the team live in Dryden) and Thunder Bay's Carl Levesque who skipped a selected N. Ontario team at the 2008 Nationals.

Team Ficek, after claiming 4th place in 2009, went 3-6 last March. "As under achievers last year I expect if I can get back to the Nationals that only a play off position would be tolerable this year," Wayne told me today.

News from P.E.I.

Eric Payne delivers a stone braced by buddy Jamie Thompson
[photo - Amber Nicholson/Journal Pioneer]
Amber Nicholson of the Journal-Pioneer reports that less than a year since Crapaud Community CC invited its first wheelchair users onto the ice, it is hosting an Atlantic Canada High Performance Wheelchair Camp January 14-16.

Eric Payne of Warren Grove, who curls Tuesday evenings at the club, believes the camp will be a significant steppingstone for wheelchair curling on P.E.I.

"It's going to bring attention to (the sport) here on P.E.I. It's going to help the sport itself grow in the Maritimes and it's going to help extend the network of wheelchair curling across Canada," he said.

Read the full report.

The three-day High Performance Wheelchair Camp is geared toward athletes who have or plan to compete at the Wheelchair Curling Nationals. Camp activities include technical review on and off-ice, drills, strategy, mental preparation, team dynamics, video analysis and three games. Special guest instructors include national team coach, Wendy Morgan, and national team mental trainer, Dr. Laura Farres.

Curlers planning to participate in the camp are asked to confirm their attendance by Saturday, Jan. 1, via e-mail to For more information contact Gayle Johnston at 368-1071.

Funeral for Frank Duffy December 30 - updated

Update 2.20PM PST - Wednesday December 29 - I have received an email saying that the funeral has been delayed, possibly until January 12. When I have more information, I will post it here.

Original post - Frank Duffy’s funeral is due to take place in Falkland Church (Scotland) on Thursday, December 30, at 10.30am before interment at the village cemetery at 11.45am.

Family and local reaction to his death can be read in this report from Fife Today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Answers to the 2010 Christmas Quiz

Here are the answers to our 2010 Christmas Quiz. Correct answers in BOLD. Maximum score 30 points.
1. From the list of people below, identify who

A) left a double world championship team to coach his national squad at the 2010 Worlds Qualifying. Per Christensen left Norway to coach his national Danish side

B) was deposed as skip of his Paralympic team by his 3rd. Jens Jäger, skip of TeamGermany, replaced by Marcus Sieger.

C) withdrew from the Paralympics after failing a drug test. Glen Ikonen for using a banned blood pressure medication.

D) described wheelchair curling as the roller derby of curling. Jim Armstrong - Team Canada skip

E) withdrew from his national team shortly after being selected, because of shoulder surgery. Patrick McDonald - Team USA

2. Which current Team Canada Paralympian has 13 siblings? Darryl Neighbour

3. Which Province held a 3 on 3 two team playdown to see who would claim the girl? Nova Scotia. Debbie Earle played for the winning threesome

4. He provided online commentary at the Paralympics, and was inducted into the London ON Sports Hall Of Fame. Who is he? Chris Daw

5. Who said of skipping “It makes me think. If I don’t come off the ice with a headache, I didn’t think hard enough.” Augusto 'Goose' Perez - Team USA skip.

6. Which 4 sport Paralympian said prior to Vancouver: "It takes you right round the world, you see some amazing places. I'm away somewhere every month, it's a full-time job now." Tom Killin - 2nd for Team Great Bitain/Scotland

7. True or False

a) feet may not touch the ice during delivery - TRUE
b) a delivery is legal if any part of the rock is touching the guidelines either side of the centre line - FALSE the rock must be positioned within the two lines.
c) at WCF events the time clocks stop during the one minute time outs when coaches may speak to their team - FALSE the clock stops while the coach is moving to the ice, but restarts when he reaches the team
d) players may be substituted during a game but must play the same position as the person they replace TRUE

8. As hosts of the 2011 Worlds, the Czech Republic took one of the eight spots allocated to the points leaders at the previous three Worlds. Who lost out from automatic qualification? CHINA were tied for 5th at the 2009 Worlds, but given 8th place after tie-breaks, but the bottom 3 teams in 2009 were forced to re-qualify. China were successful at the 2010 Qualification Tournament.

9. The oldest athlete at the Paralympics was 75. What country did he curl for?
Japan - Takashi Hidai

10. Which country arrived at the 2010 World Wheelchair Qualifying Championships, but was not allowed to play? France - they did however play some exhibition games.

11. What continent saw it's first dedicated curling ice opened to wheelchair users? Australia - Ice House in Melbourne's Docklands - expecting a surge of interest in curling from disgruntled cricket fans after Australia's dismal performance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the 4th Ashes Test Match.

12. Whose Canadian record will be snapped in March 2011 at seven consecutive National Championship appearances? Whitney Warren, who is not scheduled to compete at this year's BC Provincials in Kimberley.

13. Pair the player with their team

A) Jostein Stordahl - Norway
B) Patrik Burman - Sweden
C) Claudia Huttenmoser - Switzerland
D) Egidio Marchese - Italy
E) Katsuo Ichikawa - Japan
F) James Pierce - USA
G) Mi-Suk Kang - Korea
H) Aileen Neilson - Great Britain
I) Marcus Sieger - Germany

14. Eight of the nine players listed in #13 share something in common. Who is the odd person out? Mi-Suk Kang - the others all played 3rd at some pint during the Paralympics.

15. Why did power wheelchair users have reason to celebrate a 2010 WCF decision. The ban on power chairs was lifted for the Worlds and Paralympics.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The 2010 Christmas Quiz!

Please consider a donation to support this blog


Here's this year's Christmas Quiz. Answers in a couple of days.

1. From the list of people below, identify who

A) left a double world championship team to coach his national squad at the 2010 Worlds Qualifying

B) was deposed as skip of his Paralympic team by his 3rd.

C) withdrew from the Paralympics after failing a drug test.

D) described wheelchair curling as the roller derby of curling.

E) withdrew from his national team shortly after being selected, because of shoulder surgery.

a) Jim Armstrong b) Glen Ikonen c) Patrick McDonald d) Jens Jäger e) Per Christensen

2. Which current Team Canada Paralympian has 13 siblings? Jim Armstrong, Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Bruno Yizek.

3. Which Province held a 3 on 3 two team playdown to see who would claim the girl?

4. He provided online commentary at the Paralympics, and was inducted into the London ON Sports Hall Of Fame. Who is he?

5. Who said of skipping “It makes me think. If I don’t come off the ice with a headache, I didn’t think hard enough,” Chris Daw, Goose Perez, Rune Lorentsen, Michael McCreadie, Hak Sung Kim

 6. Which 4 sport Paralympian said prior to Vancouver: "It takes you right round the world, you see some amazing places. I'm away somewhere every month, it's a full-time job now." Sonja Gaudet, Jalle Jungnell, Jens Jäger, Tom Killin

7. True or False

a) feet may not touch the ice during delivery
b) a delivery is legal if any part of the rock is touching the guidelines either side of the centre line
c) at WCF events the time clocks stop during the one minute time outs when coaches may speak to their team
d) players may be substituted during a game but must play the same position as the person they replace

8. As hosts of the 2011 Worlds, the Czech Republic took one of the eight spots allocated to the points leaders at the previous three Worlds. Who lost out from automatic qualification?

9. The oldest athlete at the Paralympics was 75. What country did he curl for?

10. Which country arrived at the 2010 World Wheelchair Qualifying Championships, but was not allowed to play?

11.What continent saw it's first dedicated curling ice opened to wheelchair users?

12. Whose Canadian record will be snapped in March 2011 at seven consecutive National Championship appearances?

13. Pair the player with their team

A) Jostein Stordahl
B) Patrik Burman
C) Claudia Huttenmoser
D) Egidio Marchese
E) Katsuo Ichikawa
F) James Pierce
G) Mi-Suk Kang
H) Aileen Neilson
I) Marcus Sieger

a) Germany b) Great Britain c) Italy d) Japan  e) Korea  f) Norway g) Sweden h) Switzerland i) USA

14. Eight of the nine players listed in #13 share something in common. Who is the odd person out?

15. Why did power wheelchair users have reason to celebrate a 2010 WCF decision.

A very Happy Christmas to you all from Eric and Cate

Team Canada to play in Lanarkshire International Jan 18-19.

Canadian national team coach Joe Rea will be taking his gold medal winning Paralympics team; Jim Armstrong, Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet and Bruno Yizek, to Scotland in January for a pre-Worlds warm-up.

Wendy Morgan confirmed today that despite apparently uninformed speculation, Jim Armstrong has both his passport and a ticket. The team will leave for Edinburgh January 16, returning January 20.

They will be playing in the Lanarkshire International, January 18-19, in Hamilton, organized by the South Lanarkshire Wheelchair Curling Club.

Teams competing include two each from Scotland, Germany and Russia as well as Canada, Czech Republic and Sweden.

Sweden will be coached by their long-time skip Jalle Jungnell, who retired from international competition as a player after wining bronze at the Vancouver Paralympics.

McCreadie wants back in

Bob Cowan, who follows wheelchair curling in Scotland, has a blog post introducing Tony Zummack, but he buries the lede.

Michael McCreadie, who stepped up from 3rd to skip Scotland/Great Britain when Frank Duffy retired after Torino, and then took a sabbatical from international play after Vancouver, says he wants to be part of the new Scottish program.

Cowan quotes McCreadie: "I encountered Tony and his Alberta Team at the Richmond International in Vancouver in 2008. Alberta won the competition beating Jim Armstrong's team in the final.

"Tony comes to Great Britain with knowledge and experience of coaching wheelchair curlers at high level - his record speaks for itself. I am excited and feel sure he will bring his own methods, strategies and coaching expertise to enhance the skills of present and future players. This is a fresh start for all a journey which I hope again to be part of. The selection panel should be congratulated in their choice of coach."

Canada have tough opening at Prague Worlds

Team Canada will face two fancied teams on the opening day of the 2011 World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Prague, Fenruary 21.

They open against China and then face USA.

Tony Zummack's Scotland open with a bye and then face Russia and the Czech Republic.

The full schedule can be found HERE.

Team Canada is expected to be announced early in January.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"The job I have been working towards for 16 years" Tony Zummack GB coach

Team Great Britain's new coach, Tony Zummack from Calgary Alberta, says he has always known that he wanted to become involved with coaching at the national level.

"You can't argue with the success of Canada's national program," he told me today. "Gerry Peckham and Joe Rea have been very successful, and you can't expect it to be dismantled to let someone else have a go. So when I learned about the British job last October, I decided to apply."

It was announced today that Zummack will replace Tom Pendreigh as the British Wheelchair Curling Coach, joining a team of five national high performance coaches. He has a four year contract that runs through the end of 2014, and will begin his duties in January.

He feels the experience he gained coaching Calgary's Team Smart, perennial Alberta Champions, over the past two plus seasons, has prepared him for the challenge.

"Team Alberta works just as hard and does the same things in training as Team Canada. What they don't have is the financial resources for sports psychologists and trainers and opportunities for travel.

"But what we have done in Calgary is a solid grounding for what needs to be done in a national program. I am just sorry that I won't be there to see them compete in Edmonton, but I know they are good enough to win a national championship, especially with the return of Bruno Yizek, who brings so many things to the team."

The Zummack's will be relocating to Stirling, Scotland which is north of both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Their daughter will transfer to Sterling University after her winter semester, but Tony is anxious to get to Scotland to meet his new team.

"They have a high performance squad that is about the same size as in Canada, and their team for the 2011 Worlds in Prague has already been picked, so it will be a case of getting to know them and seeing where we are," he says.

So your first job will be to pick a skip? "Who says I'll be the one to choose who skips?" he replied, which on reflection was a pretty athlete-centred answer.

British wheelchair curlers have under-performed expectations for several years now. "I'm not going to be making big changes right away," said Zummack. "It will take time to assess the players and the program. I'll have the summer to discuss with Performance Director Dave Crosbee what if any changes should be made.

"I'll also be travelling and watching other players. As a full-time coach part of my job will be talent identification. That's a lot easier in a geographically smaller country like Scotland, where it will be possible to drive to regularly see players in the way that Canada's size makes more difficult.

"I'm looking forward to working with Dave Crosbee and Rhona Martin, people with more international experience than I have. But I am confident that I can bring success to the program. Success brings funding and funding brings success. I am really looking forward to the challenge."

Alberta's Tony Zummack to coach Team Great Britain

Tony Zummack - 2009 Nationals
Tony Zummack, coach of Alberta Provincial Champions Team Smart for the past three seasons, has been chosen as the new Head Coach for British Wheelchair Curling. His was one of two non-UK appointments to the five person elite curling coaching team announced today that is expected to bring Olympic and Paralympic success back to British curling.

He replaces Tom Pendreigh who I understand did not interview for the wheelchair curling position. Great Britain/Scotland had 3rd, 7th, and 5th World Championships finishes since their silver in Torino, and posted a 3-6 (tied for worst) record in Vancouver.

Zummack, a professional curling and golf teacher, will be giving up his job as curling supervisor at the prestigous and private Glencoe Club in Calgary. He has worked with the players now skipped by Jack Smart since 2008 curling out of the Ogden CC, coaching them to a silver medal at the 2009 Nationals.

Team member Bruno Yizek has since won a gold medal at the Vancouver Paralympics, and Anne Hibberd played for Canada B at the recent Richmond Cashspiel.

His task in Scotland will expand beyond the role he played in Alberta, where he was the coach of a club team competing against other club teams. On the technical side it will be interesting to see whether Zummack continues Pendreigh's "deliver from the rings" experiment, and also whether he introduces, as he did in Calgary, the off-side brace, long championed on this blog and website as a tool for increased delivery accuracy.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity and challenge," he told me this morning.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Team Fitzgerald repeat as Nova Scotia champions

Team Fitzgerald, with Laughie Rutt at 3rd, Trendal Hubley-Bolivar 2nd and lead Debbie Earle, defeated Team Brown 3-0 in a best of 5 series to represent Nova Scotia at the 2011 National Championships in Edmonton AB in March.

A good crowd was on hand to see Team Fitzgerald take an easy 9-2 victory in the first game with Fitzgerald stealing in the early ends and building up a big lead.

The second game came down to skip rocks with the score tied. Fitzgerald had the hammer and did a good job of keeping a path to the four foot open on the right despite a Brown rock buried, biting the four foot. Fitzgerald outdrew it and Brown could not duplicate the shot or remove it on his last stone, leaving Fitzgerald with a 5-4 win.

The third game was also close. tied 2-2 at the break. Brown took one with hammer in the 5th but gave up a deuce in the 6th. In the 7th Fitzgerald opted for a guard rather than an open tap to lie three. It was the decisive stone, as Brown's attempted draw rubbed it, coming up short and allowing Fitzgerald to steal two.

In the eighth end Brown, needing to score 3, had a shot buried dead on the button early behind two guards and a rock in the twelve foot in front of the t-line but well to the left. Fitzgerald then added to the rock pile in front by blocking more and more of the scoring area. Brown also contributed to the pile with a wrecked draw attempt to sit three.

On 3rd's last rock Fitzgerald asked for the take out of the Brown's second shot rock in the twelve foot, and Rutt's takeout rolled full four foot behind cover and ended Brown's chances, Fitzgerald winning 6-3.

Line score for each game ca be found HERE.

It is the fourth consecutive year that Fitzgerald will skip a rink at Nationals.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Armstrong remains on Team Canada after disciplinary review

Here is the CCA's CEO Greg Stremlaw's statement concerning the review of Team Canada skip Jim Armstrong's actions for which he is expected to be sentenced in Seattle Federal Court on January 28th.

"As I think you are aware, a formal, comprehensive review of the situation was undertaken by a designated review committee including interviews with appropriate parties, consultation with stakeholders and a review and assessment of all pertinent and available documentation. As a result of this, the review committee did recommend a course of disciplinary action to the CCA which was approved and implemented. We feel that the disciplinary actions taken are fair and appropriate to the situation given the facts and information available to the review committee at this time. The disciplinary actions do include specific conditions, therefore, should any new facts or information become available which are relevant to this situation either before, during or after the January 28th court date, this matter can be revisited and further action taken if and as required.

"At this time, the athlete is still a part of the National Team program and will continue to train and compete as such."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frank Duffy suicide before court appearance

Jamie Beatson of the reports that Frank Duffy took his own life, setting himself and his car alight in a car park prior to a scheduled bail hearing, after previously being arrested in connection with sex offences.

A court source said: "As far as we know he was accused of offences against young girls." The offences are alleged to have occurred between January 2000 and November 2010.

Read the report

Frank Duffy dead at 51: "the first wheelchair curling superstar"

Frank Duffy - 1959-2010
[photo courtest Bob Cown's blog]

I received some very sad news this morning. Frank Duffy died suddenly.

"In my eyes he was the 1st wheelchair 'superstar'  I will miss him an awful lot," Michael McCreadie wrote in an email.

Frank was born in 1959 and was first introduced to the sport of curling at age 12 on a frozen pond in Falkland in Fife. When he was 35, a 12 foot fall from a ladder left him with an L1 spinal cord injury and life in a wheelchair.

He had been a skilled curler before his injury and was involved in Scottish wheelchair curling from the beginning, skipping Scotland to two World Championship titles in 2004 and 2005 followed by a silver medal at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.

He also won many domestic championships and Sportsmanship Awards, coached at WCF camps, and following his retirement from international curling in 2006, chaired the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association (2006-2008) and was a Director for British Curling from 2007-2010.

I met Frank at the Kelowna Cashspiel in 2005, which he won. He was a gentleman, soft-spoken but disciplined. I had, as an event organizer, staked out some wheelchair accessible refreshment venues, but Frank disapproved. He told me the game (back then) was one of draws and taps. Ironic that the iconic image of his career will be his look of anguish as he sees his Torino gold medal take-out shot miss by millimeters.

Angie Malone comforts her skip, Frank Duffy, after the last shot in Torino, 2006

Frank was someone who put into the sport more than he took out, working not just when the cameras and note-pads were out, but serving to develop and direct the sport he loved.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three teams to compete at BC Provincials

Three teams will compete for the BC Wheelchair Championship in Kimberley February 3-6, and the opportunity to represent their province at the 2011 National Championships in Edmonton March 20-27, 2011.

Reigning champions Gary Cormack and Vince Miele return with Frank LaBounty and Alison Duddy, beaten finalists in 2010. Last year's lead, Corinne Jensen is a casualty of the location, forced to decide that the travel costs from the Island are prohibitive.

Last year's silver medallist Gerry Austgarden is not competing this year, but teammate and double Paralympian gold medallist Sonja Gaudet will play with Bob MacDonald, Bill Lindstrom and Samantha Siu.

Paralympian Gold medallists Jim Armstrong, Darryl Neighbour and Chris Daw will play with Jacqui Roy.

Whitney Warren's non-appearance will end his streak of appearing at every National Championship at seven.

CurlBC shares $350K Olympic windfall

CurlBC will share in a $350,000 windfall from 50/50 sales during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games by the Canucks for Kids Fund (CFKF) to support programs that benefit disabled athletes in British Columbia.

CurlBC CEO Scott Braley said, “These funds will enable Curl BC to develop an adapted curling physical education program with the goal to overcome participation barriers experienced by children with disabilities throughout BC.”

Read the full story HERE.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ontario High Performance Development Camp Feb 11-12

Ontario's CCA High Performance Development Camp will be held Friday and Saturday February 11-12, 2011 at the Peach King Centre in Grimsby during the 2011 Dominion Tankard Ontario Men’s Curling Championship.

The camp is intended for curlers who “have the potential to be recruited into the (post 2011) national pool…and they will be contacted for years 2012-2013 for future development and possible selection to the national team or to train with the national program at national training camps."

Application fee $50, maximum numbers 16, deadline Jan 7, 2011. Check HERE for more details.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nova Scotia Provincials begin December 18

The Nova Scotia Wheelchair Curling Championship will be held at the Lakeshore Curling Club. The first two games of the best of five series start December 18th at 10.00am and 3.00pm. Game 3 is December 19th at 8.00 am with games 4 and 5 if necessary, 1.00pm December 19 and 6.30 pm on the 20th.

Line scores from each game can be found on
Michael Fitzgerald, with Laughie Rutt, Trendal Hubley-Bolivar and Debbie Earle face Richard Brown, playing with Terry Cousineau, Steve Parfitt and Paige Fougere, in a rematch of last year’s championship.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

8th Annual Pat "O" Reid Memorial Bonspiel January 9th

The 8th Annual Pat "O" Reid Memorial Bonspiel is planned for Sunday January 9, 2011 at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. It is open to able-bodied and wheelchair curlers in any combination.

Organizers hope to have a Competitive Wheelchair Division as in previous years. To accommodate those that couldn't make it to last year's event, the day has been moved to a Sunday, and the starting time moved up to 10:30 am so we can be finished around 7:00 pm for the convenience of out of town participants.

O.C.C. Team Ranking System points may be awarded to Competitive Wheelchair teams if numbers permit a separate Competitive Division. Full details HERE.

Curling promotes inclusion

 RCD"s Vince Miele thanking those who made The Richmond event a success
"In his capacity as board chair of the Richmond Centre for Disability, writes Don Fennell of the Richmond Review, "Vince Miele spends a lot of time promoting inclusion, independence and empowerment."

The article, a wrap-up of last week's Richmond International Cashspiel, features Vince Miele, who has toiled unremarked to bring a first class event to the lower Mainland, and never mentioned that he won a National Championship last March.

Curling is an easy sport to integrate wheelchair users, noted Miele. You can read the article HERE.

Friday, December 10, 2010

BC extends deadline for provincial championship entries

CurlBC has announced that the entry deadline for teams wishing to participate in the Provincial Championships has been extended to Monday December 13.

The event is scheduled to take place in Kimberley February 3-6, which unfortunately is about as far away from the main body of wheelchair curlers as is possible without holding the event in Alberta.

An entry fee of $240 and the availability of six Paralympians, may have made a long distance journey over mountainous winter roads less than appealing to curlers who may have attended an event more centrally located.

CurlBC were slow to move away from a selection system, but it has worked well for them, with both National finalists last year coming from BC. Championships are spread around the province for the very best of reasons, and the organisers in Kimberley were very proud to be chosen to host the event.

But at this stage of the sport's development, does it make sense to schedule an event so far from potential participants that there may not be enough teams to make hosting worthwhile? CurlBC have already been forced to abandon its region based participation criteria for wheelchair curling.

On a different note, it will be interesting to see whether the Vancouver medalists choose to participate, and if so, whether they follow the example of the Scots, who tend to spread their experience over different teams in the interests of encouraging participation.

Issue 3 of Atlantic Canada's Wheelchair Curling News

Those living in Atlantic Canada have a monthly newsletter organised by Laughie Rutt. In the 3rd issue, there is information about the Mayflower CC access improvements, the CCA talent identification and development camp, Provincials at the Lakeshore CC. renovations at the Caladonian CC in Pictou NS, and a possible spiel in Frederickton at the end of January if there's sufficient interest.
You can access the newsletter HERE.

Those living within reach of Lower Sackville are reminded that all wheelchair users are welcome at the recreational Saturday afternoon on-ice sessions at the Lakeshore CC. Email Laughie for details.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

British wheelchair curling funding cut in half *UPDATED*

The BBC reports that British Government funding through UK Sport for Olympic and Paralympic programs, while showing an overall increase, has concentrated on sports where there is the best likelihood of medals. Wheelchair curling has had its funding reduced from UKP 450,000 (C$ 711,000) to UKP 223,000 (C$ 356,000).

British performances have fallen below expectations at the last Worlds and Paralympics, and that disappointment is demonstrated in the 48% reduction in funding over the next four years. That is not to say that additional funds would not be made available if the team started appearing on the podium again, as a major source of funding comes from the National Lottery, which has recently generated higher than expected revenue.

The Scots squad that makes up the British team were generously funded as full time athletes leading up to the Paralympics. It will be interesting to see how this reduction affects the team's performance and what areas; financial support, travel, training courses, international competition, will be cut.

Read the BBC report for full details.

UPDATE: An anonymous blog commentator cites cites a post on the RCC website that British curling will receive £2,288,900 from UK Sport for the period between now and the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2014, which "more than doubles the funding British Curling received in the previous four-year cycle."

That does not contradict the BBC report that funding for wheelchair curling has been slashed.

Gerry Peckham, Canada's National Program Director, said news of the cut, if true, was "Tragic news for such a strong wheelchair curling Nation."

As for Canada, he said, "We have maintained our funding level subsequent to 2010 which is fabulous considering there are no more sponsor dollars coming our way [winter sport] via VANOC. The challenge for curling has always been to ensure we get our fair share of the funding pie. Our biggest road block is the fact that as a sport we only account for 3 medals total."

Saskatchewan announces team for 2011 Nationals

Saskatchewan announced one change to the team that will make the province's third appearance at the Nationals, to be held in Edmonton AB March 20-27.

The team, that will represent the Callie CC out of Regina, is Darwin Bender (Regina), Gil Dash (Wolseley), Terry Hart (Regina), Marie Wright (Moose Jaw) and Calvin Bird (Regina) who replaces Del Huber. The coach is Lorraine Arguin (Moose Jaw) assisted by Bob Capp (Regina).

Saskatchewan tied for 5th with a 4-5 record at last year's Championships in Kelowna, BC.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Halifax's venerable Mayflower CC now accessible

 Trendal Hubley-Bolivar arranging rocks at the Mayflower CC
[photo - Peter Parsons - ChronicleHerald]

The 105 year old Mayflower Curling Club in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has installed an accessible washroom, and a ramp and lift allowing wheelchair users access to the ice for the first time.

The improvements are part of the Halifax 2011 Canada Games capital improvement plan. Laughie Rutt, three time provincial champion, threw out the first stone.

Former club president Paul McDonald told The the $68,000 in upgrades signal a new era at the club.

"We’re going to serve a new group within our community and it’s a valuable group. These upgrades provide ease of accessibility for current and future members and athletes visiting the club."

The improvements also assist spectators and volunteers at events, he said.

You can read more HERE and HERE

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CCA in quandary over 2011 Worlds selection

Team Canada skip Jim Armstrong
Contrary to rumours circulating at Richmond last week, there has been no final decision on who will represent Canada at the 2011 World Championships in Prague, February 21st to March 3rd.

Wendy Morgan told me that the decision had not been finalised and would require CCA approval. So, presumably, would any team selection where the CCA is picking up the tab. Greg Stremlaw, CEO of the CCA, confirmed today: "A final decision of the team that will represent Canada at the 2011 WWhCC will likely be made by the end of this month."

National program director Gerry Peckham has in the past shown a reluctance to change a winning team, and under normal circumstances there would be no expectation of changes to the five who won gold at the Paralympics last March. Jim Armstrong's legal problems complicate things, however.

The CCA and the major funders for the national wheelchair program, Sports Canada and Own The Podium, have yet to decide whether Jim's actions as outlined in his plea of guilty to distributing pills with an intent to deceive, presented to a Seattle Federal judge, "reflect detrimentally upon the image of the National Team Program, CCA or Canada." Do the offenses to which Jim has admitted, constitute grounds for removal from the national program?

The CCA is in a quandary. They are obviously reluctant to give up on a person considered instrumental to Team Canada's success at the Worlds and Paralympics, especially as Jim has intimated that his actions will be seen differently when he is free to offer a mitigating explanation for the admissions in his plea, presumably after sentencing on January 28th.

The CCA can delay deciding whether Armstrong should still qualify for national program membership and benefits, but the practicalities of travel arrangements for the World Championships in Prague, Feb 21 - March 3, mean that a team must be chosen before then.

It is possible that if Jim removes himself from consideration for Prague, or if the CCA considers it too great a risk to select someone at the mercy of a US Federal judge for his freedom, a team selection decision could be made independently of a national program status decision.

Jim could take the long term view here, helping the CCA by saying that he won't go to Prague, but defending himself and his status in the national program when he feels free to do so.

Whatever the decision, Greg Stremlaw says, "I can assure you that the CCA will definitely be ready for the WWhCC and ongoing analysis and plans are well underway." It is confidence echoed by coach Joe Rea who told me recently that the team is prepared for any eventuality.

Monday, December 6, 2010

BC holding its National Program development camp Dec. 11/12

This weekend it will be BC's turn to host one of the series of talent identification and development camps sponsored by CurlBC the CCA under its national wheelchair curling program. The camp will be at the Richmond CC December 11-12.

Regional coach Al Moore told me that invitations were sent "to virtually everyone we could think of outside of the paralympic group, which has a separate training program."

Utica CC hosting camp for disabled veterans

Marc DePerno, National Director of Outreach for Wheelchair Curling for the U.S. Curling Association, is organising a wheelchair curling camp for disabled veterans Curling Camp at the Utica Curling Club, in Whitesboro. NY. Sunday and Monday, Dec. 13-14. Eight wounded servicemen from Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin will participate.

“We are honored to introduce America’s heroes to the sport of adaptive curling, and will provide additional training should they wish to compete on the Paralympic level,” DePerno said. [source]

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Team BC Host gives National Championship banner to Richmond CC

The National Champions, Team BC Hosts, have donated their Championship Banner to the Richmond Curling Club.

2010 National Champions
Samantha Siu, Corinne Jensen, Vince Miele, Rich Green, Gary Cormack

Team Scotland newcomers profiled

Gregor Ewan - Jan 2010 [photo - Bob Cowan]

Team Scotland newcomer Gregor Ewan says he wants Scots skip Aileen Neilson's job. He was interviewed with club and now national teammate Michael McKenzie by Dave Edwards in today's The Press and Journal.

Dufftown-based Ewan told Edwards: “Winning the British championships with the Moray club last weekend was pretty special but being chosen to represent Scotland in the world championships is up there as well.

“The next step is the Olympics. My goal was to get to the world championships, win gold over the next couple of years then reach the Olympic Games.

“I am skip for Moray and, although Aileen Neilson is the Scotland skip, I intend to challenge her for that honour. To be asked to play for your country in any capacity is a great honour. When you are a kid growing up pulling on that Scotland jersey is everyone’s dream."  Read more.

It's all Canada in the final of the Richmond International

Canada A, the gold medal Paralympic team, beat Canada B 6-4 in today's final of the Richmond International at the Richmond (BC) Curling Club. Canada A established a big early lead with a 4 in the 3rd end, but Gerry Austgarden's Canada B side had a double takeout opportunity at the bell to tie the score. They settled for 3 and the $600 second place prize money.

Canada A donated half of their $1,00 purse back to the Richmond Centre for Disability as seed money for next year's tournament.

Canada A#  2 0 4 0 1 2 0 X - 9
Canada B    0 2 0 2 0 0 3 X - 7

The two Korea teams (Samantha Sui played lead and Bruno Yizek played 3rd for Korea B) were tied 3-3 when the bell rang after 6 ends. They played an extra (7th) end and Korea A stole a another single to take 3rd place by a score of 4-3.

Korea A   0 1 1 0 0 1 - 1 - 4
Korea B# 1 0 0 1 1 0 - 0 - 3

Richmond International - Day 4

Team Canada coach Wendy Morgan talking to Canada B
Despite losing to Korea A in the final round robin draw, Canada B, skipped by Gerry Austgarden, with Whitney Warren at lead, Ann Hibberd 2nd, and Frank LaBounty, qualified for the afternoon final by their tie-breaking win over Korea B.

They play Canada A, while Korea A and Korea B, who have TC Alternate Bruno Yizek playing with them, contest third place.

Draw 7 - 9.30am December 4

Korea A #  3 0 0 1 0 1 1 X - 6
Canada B   0 1 1 0 2 0 0 X - 4

4C's #       0 0 0 5 1 0 X X - 6

Richmond RCD 3 1 2 0 0 4 X X - 10

Evergreen  0 1 2 0 0 0 X X - 3

Korea B    1 0 0 2 1 1 X X - 4

Bye - Canada A

Table after round robin play

Canada A  - 6-0
Canada B  - 4-2
Korea B   - 4-2
Korea A   - 3-3
RCD       - 2-4
4C's      - 1-5
Evergreen - 1-5

Richmond International Cashspiel photos

I have uploaded 57 photos taken at the Richmond International Cashspiel.

They were taken by members of the Richmond Centre for Disability, sponsors of the event.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Richmond International Day 3

Canada's A team finished their round robin play unbeaten at 6-0, shutting out Canada B, their closest challengers, 7-0 this afternoon.

The final round robin draw will be played Saturday morning with the final, between the top two teams, contested at 1.30PM

Chris Daw was unable to play this afternoon as his baby daughter was taken into hospital. In light of his family emergency it is unlikely that he will play Saturday. (See comments at bottom of yesterday's post.)

Draw 5 - 9.30 am December 3

Canada A # 1 0 5 0 4 0 X X - 10
Korea B    0 1 0 1 0 1 X X - 3

Korea A     2 1 0 1 2 1 X X - 7
Evergreen # 0 0 1 0 0 0 X X - 1

4C's #    1 1 0 2 1 0 0 X - 5
Canada B  0 0 4 0 0 2 1 X - 7 

Bye - Richmond RCD

Draw 6 - 1.30pm

Canada A #  1 1 1 1 2 1 X X - 7
Canada B    0 0 0 0 0 0 X X - 0

Korea A #    1 3 0 0 2 1 0 X - 7
Richmond RCD 0 0 3 1 0 0 1 X - 5

4C's #  0 1 0 0 2 0 X X - 3
Korea B 1 0 1 2 0 2 X X - 6

Bye - Evergreen

Table after 6 Draws - one to go

Canada A  - 6-0
Canada B  - 4-1
Korea B   - 3-2
Korea A   - 2-3
4C's      - 1-4
Evergreen - 1-4
RCD       - 1-4

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Richmond International spiel - Day 2

Draw 3 - 9.30 am December 2

Canada A #  4 4 0 2 1 1 1 - 13
Evergreen   0 0 5 0 0 0 0 - 5

Richmond RCD  # 0 0 3 0 0 2 X X - 5
Canada B        1 1 0 2 1 1 X X - 6

Korea A #  0 1 0 1 0 3 0 X - 5
4 C's      1 0 3 0 1 0 1 X - 6

Bye - Korea B

Draw 4 - 1.30pm

Canada A #    0 1 6 0 2 1 X X - 10
Richmond RCD  1 0 0 2 0 0 x x -  3

Korea A   0 0 1 0 0 1 0 X - 2
Korea B # 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 X - 4

Evergreen  0 1 0 0 1 1 0 X - 3
Canada B # 1 0 2 4 0 0 1 X - 8

Bye - 4C's

Richmond International Day 1 - scores and photos

Canada's gold medal Paralympic team began the 4th Annual Richmond International Cashspiel with two wins on the first day of round robin play.

Draw 1 - 9.30am December 1

Canada A #  0 0 4 3 1 2 X X - 10
Korea A     2 2 0 0 0 0 X X - 4

4C's        0 0 1 0 1 0 X X - 2
Evergreen # 1 1 0 1 0 0 X X - 3

Richmond RCD 0 1 0 2 1 1 0 X - 5
Korea B #    2 0 2 0 0 0 2 X - 6

Bye Canada B

Draw 2

Canada A    0 1 0 2 1 0 1 - 5
4 C's #     0 0 3 0 0 1 0 - 4

Evergreen #   1 0 0 1 0 0 2 X - 4
Richmond RCD  0 1 2 0 1 2 0 X - 6

Korea  B # 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 x  -  3
Canada B   1 0 0 2 1 2 0 X  -  6

Bye Korea A

Canada A - Sonja, Jim, Darryl and Ina

Scottish team announced for 2011 Worlds in Prague

Michael McKenzie and Gregor Ewan

The team that will represent Scotland at the 2011 World Championships beginning February 21 in Prague sees two newcomers, Gregor Ewan and Michael McKenzie, join Aileen Neilson, Angie Malone and Tom Killin.

Gregor and Michael are from Moray in the north of Scotland, and played on the team that won last weekend's British Open Championship over Aileen Neilson's Braehead rink. Interesting that the announcement on the Royal Caledonian CC website (Britain's equivalent to the CCA) is titled 2010-11 Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association National Team selection.

Scotland sends its national team to the Worlds, but competes at the Paralympics as Great Britain. Qualification for the 2014 Sochi Paralympics depends on performance at the next three World Championships.

All the Scottish curling team coaches' contracts expire this month, and while it is thought that present wheelchair coach Tom Pendreigh is interested in a job, it may not be with the wheelchair team. For an insight into the politics surrounding Scottish curling's administration, see Bob Cowan's December editorial.

 Gregor Ewan and Aileen Neilson - rivals last week, teammates this.

Gregor Ewan beats Aileen Neilson for 2010 British Open title

2010 British Open Wheelchair Curling Champions

Jackie Cayton lead, Jim Gault 2nd, Mike McKenzie 3rd and Gregor Ewan skip
[photo courtesy Gregor Ewan via Bob Cowan's blog]

Ten teams competed last weekend for the 2010 British Open title. The three day event in Kilmarnock, Scotland, comprised two pools of five teams. Aillen Neilson skipped a Braehead team that was unbeaten in Pool A after a 10-3 win over second place Gregor Ewan's Moray rink with three wins. Angie Malone topped Pool B with Paul Webster 2nd. Tables after round robin play are HERE. Use links on left of page for line scores of all the matches.

Malone and Ewan won their semis and Team Ewan got off to a fast start in the final with single point steals in the first three ends. An accurate last stone draw pulled Aileen Neilson's team within one at the break, and a raised takeout for 2 by Neilson put the teams level after 6. Neilson stole a single in the 7th for her team's first lead.

In the final end Michael McCreadie, playing 2nd for Neilson, drew to just behind the tee line and a succession of short stones and guards allowed the stone to stay in place. However a last stone guard drew just a fraction too far and this gave a narrow window of opportunity to Gregor Ewan who executed a fantastic hit and stay for two and the title. [event report]

 2010 British Open runners-up
Ian Donaldson 3rd, Aileen Neilson skip, Michael McCreadie 2nd and Gerald Pocock lead
[photo - Lesley Brewin]